Sweaters are out, temperatures drop, fireplaces are blazing, and the clocks turn back. It’s that time of year again when winter comes rolling in for another season. And while there are plenty of things we love about winter — like hot chocolate, snowfalls, and cozying up by the fire — winter can also take its toll.
After the long, warm days of the summer, winter can be a smack in the face and a tough adjustment at that when you’re hit with shorter, dark days. The yearly transition can lead to something called seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
Heard of it? Dealt with it before?
Seasonal Affective Disorder affects an estimated 10 million Americans, with women being four times more likely to be diagnosed with it than men.
If you struggle with seasonal depressive disorder, we know it can be frustrating to get through the winter months. But we’ve got some good news too! In this blog, we break down seven ways you can ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and get back towards feeling like your best self.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The textbook definition is that it’s a type of depression related to changes in the seasons. If you experience SAD, you’ll typically start seeing symptoms arise in the fall and then continue on through the winter, sapping energy and causing you to feel well, a bit more sad and grumpy than normal.
When it comes to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, there’s a whole host of them to look out for. Some of the most common ones are feeling depressed, losing interest in activities, low energy, and sleeping issues.
3 Ways the Benefits of Sauna Can Alleviate SAD
One of the toughest parts of winter is undoubtedly the cold. And for those of us summer lovers, having to be bundled up for three months and stay mostly indoors can be a real buzz kill.
For a respite from the cold, sauna not only gives you a chance to warm up and sweat, but it offers benefits that can help ease SAD symptoms too.
Enjoy a Full Body Calm
Feel a sense of calm from your head to your toes.
Cold winter temperatures cause your blood to move from your limbs to your core to maintain body temperature and keep your important internal organs warm. This can leave muscles and joints feeling tight and stiff. Heat from the sauna improves blood circulation and muscle relaxation. So if your muscles and joints are feeling a little out of whack, a calming session in the sauna might be just what you need.
Focus on Mindfulness
Sauna offers an opportunity to settle into stillness and embrace mindfulness — a practice that has been linked to lowering depression.
Mindfulness hasn’t been given much credit in modern healthcare, partly because it's a natural remedy, but having a mindfulness practice is an effective, healthy way of combating SAD depression symptoms. And while medication can be helpful and maybe even necessary, it’s always a great idea to start small with lifestyle changes first to see how you feel. A consistent mindfulness practice, along with regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and a regular sleep schedule, are all great habits to support your mental health.
In 2016, a large research study, including 1,258 patients experiencing recurrent depression, showed that patients given mindfulness-based treatment had a significantly lower risk of falling back into depression than those given usual care, such as therapy and antidepressants.
Sleep — that wonderful healing rest — seems to be highly altered by those experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
According to one study, as many as 80 percent of people with SAD experience excessive sleepiness. In fact, that same research found that those with SAD actually experienced a decrease in time spent in restful, deep sleep. This is where sauna can be a great help.
Consistent time in the sauna, with added cold water therapy, can help regulate sleep cycles. Spending time in the gentle heat of a sauna can improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation and a healthy circadian rhythm.
Other Tips to Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder Along with sauna time, here are a few additional things to consider trying if you’re feeling the winter blues this season.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Making an effort to have quality time with friends and family can really lift the spirits when it’s cold and gloomy outside. Grab a cup of coffee, a meal, or sit around a nice fire at night with those you care about most. Having a few fun things to look forward to during the week can greatly improve your mood.
Make Exercise a Part of Your Day-to-Day Routine
Staying inside gets old! We totally agree. Getting your blood pumping with exercise during the winter months is a great way to help alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder. If it’s not too cold, go for a brisk walk outside. If you just can’t fathom facing the outdoors in the winter, then take your exercise inside with a 30 minutes on a bike or a yoga class (link to yoga blog).
Get Enough Sunlight
When it comes to SAD, light is a major player in feeling better. Some specialists recommend experimenting with light therapy. But if you prefer to keep things simple, all you need to do is soak up some of that glorious vitamin D. Make it a point to sit in the sunshine for 10 minutes a day. If it’s cold, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or apple cider while you catch some rays.
Red Light Therapy
If you’re not keen on getting outside in the cold this winter, here is another option to try.
Red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, is a natural light treatment that includes red and near infrared wavelengths (NIR). Unlike ultraviolet rays from the sun, these wavelengths are harmless to the skin.
Red light therapy sends signals to the mitochondria in your cells and results in a chemical reaction, increasing production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy. ATP is essentially the fuel our bodies run on every day.
Making more ATP energy is great for physical performance, healing, restful sleep and can even improve symptoms of depression — like what you may experience with SAD. In fact, red light therapy has been clinically-proven to help significantly reduce the effects of SAD with just two 10-minute sessions each week over the course of eight weeks.
Visit Sauna House or Bring it Home
Ready to kick SAD to the curb this season? Make sauna time a consistent part of your wellness routine with a series pass or membership to Sauna House. These are available for purchase only at Sauna House.
Want to enjoy the sauna without even having to leave the house? Bring the benefits of sauna to the comfort of your own abode with an in-home sauna.